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How Public Liability Insurance Protects Tradesmen in Case of Accidents or Damages

Rhino Trade Insurance 18 September 2023

If you’re a tradesperson, you’ll have almost definitely heard of Public Liability Insurance. You probably also know that going without it is like skydiving without a parachute, but you may still have questions about this all-important type of cover.

Read on to discover more about Public Liability Insurance for tradesmen, including what it is, what it covers, who needs it and what to do if you need to use it.

The Definition and Purpose of Public Liability Insurance

Public Liability Insurance is a policy which will protect a self-employed individual against the cost of a whole range of third-party liability claims. These claims could be for bodily injury, or damage to property.

If you cause someone or their property harm during the course of your business activities, then you’re legally responsible for covering the cost of rectifying the damage done – insured or not. From a ruined carpet to accidental death, trust us – you don’t want to have the buck stop with you if you’re going uninsured.

Why do I need Public Liability Insurance?

If you come into contact with the public regularly, such as is the case with most tradespeople, it’s essential to have Public Liability cover. But even if your contact with the public is just occasional, such as if you work from a workshop or just do deliveries, it’s still important to get covered as there’s still plenty of opportunity for something unfortunate to happen. 

The Importance of Public Liability insurance for Tradesmen

Public Liability Insurance is a policy which is an absolute must for anyone who is self-employed. Here are the two main reasons why:

  • The buck stops with you

Let’s give you an example to illustrate the importance of having Public Liability Insurance if you are self-employed. Imagine you’re a salaried employee and work in a supermarket and accidentally tip a shelf of baked beans onto a customer, causing injuries. You won’t be personally liable for the costs of the customer’s recovery or any fees, court costs or damages. You may get a telling-off by your boss, but nobody will come after the money in your pocket. 

If you are working in that supermarket as a self-employed contractor – let’s say fixing a lightbulb – and tip that shelf onto that customer – then guess who will be liable financially for the damages and compensation? Yes – you. If you had Public Liability Insurance in place, then your insurer would pay (up to your chosen limit of indemnity). If you didn’t have Public Liability Insurance, then the costs would arrive at your door in the form of a big bill with your name on it.

  • You can win more work

An uninsured tradesperson is like a kebab that’s been dropped on the pavement. No self-respecting person will touch it, but there’ll always be a dodgy few who are prepared to pick it up when no-one’s looking.

Most private customers want the reassurance that comes with knowing their tradesperson is insured and certainly almost no contractors will work with an uninsured tradesperson as their own reputations and finances are on the line. Further, trade associations will only accept you as a member if you have Public Liability Insurance, another of the many benefits of Public Liability Insurance for tradesmen.

Coverage Provided by Public Liability Insurance

So, what types of costs will Public Liability Insurance cover? If a claim is brought against you, then your insurer should cover the following:

  • The claimant’s medical bills
  • Repairs or replacements of damaged property
  • Legal fees, comprising solicitors’ feed and court costs
  • Compensation for loss of earnings
  • Compensation for distress caused

The things on this list aren’t cheap – which is why it’s important to be insured. Paying these types of costs out of your own pocket simply isn’t an option for most tradespeople. And even if it was – going uninsured isn’t worth the reputational damage.

Case Studies: Real-Life Examples of Public Liability Insurance Claims

Here we’ll highlight how Public Liability Insurance protects tradesmen in various scenarios where either negligence or accidents causes harm or damage to someone or their property.

Scenario 1 – the plumber’s predicament

A plumber accidentally punctures a pipe, which causes a slow drip of water into a customer’s ceiling, causing the plaster to buckle and the ceiling to collapse, destroying some antique furniture. The plumber’s insurer pays for the cost of the repair work, as well as reimburses the customer the cost of the furniture, plus some extra for the inconvenience. 

Scenario 2 – the joiner’s jam

A joiner is working from their workshop when a customer enters to collect a handmade chair. The customer’s child trips over a piece of wood left on the floor and loses two teeth. The customer brings a claim against the joiner, whose insurer pays them for the damages including reconstructive dental work and solicitor’s fees.

Scenario 3 – the installer’s issue

A gas engineer leaves a gas valve incorrectly sealed, which causes a build-up of gas in a customer’s home. A spark ignites the gas, destroying the property and killing the homeowner. The gas engineer’s insurer pays the cost equal to rebuilding the home to the deceased homeowner’s family, as well as compensation for the accidental death and all associated legal costs.

Scenario 4 – the bricklayer’s bother

A bricklayer is carrying some bricks across a building site when they fall onto some materials, including some plates of glass destined to become patio doors, smashing them. The bricklayer’s insurer pays for the cost of the broken materials.

Scenario 5 – the cleaner’s crisis

A cleaner is working at an office block after hours and leaves their vacuum cord trailing across the floor. Someone working late trips over it and breaks their elbow. The insurer pays for some private medical scans, missed income and some compensation for the pain and suffering caused.

Steps to Take in the Event of an Accident or Damage

So, something has happened which you fear could give rise to a claim. What should you do?

1. Report it

Reporting incidents promptly is crucial, as if you leave it too late after the incident then your claim won’t be accepted. You should notify your insurer of any claim or potential claim as soon as is practically possible, quoting your policy number. You can do this by telephone, email or post. Read your Policy Wording document for full details.

2. Send evidence 

Include all key information about your claim, including dates, times and any supporting evidence. With Public Liability Insurance, this could be things like a written account of what happened, police crime number, CCTV footage or accident report. If you receive any claim form or summons from the third party, this must be also sent to your insurer as soon as possible.

3. Wait

Your insurer will then assess the information and notify you of the outcome of your claim within the timeframe specified in your Policy Wording document.

You’ll receive instructions on how to make a claim on your particular policy when you take out your cover – get clued up in advance so you’re ready if and when the time comes to claim.

At Rhino, we offer the very best protection for tradesmen with Public Liability Insurance. It’s our most popular policy with customers who keep renewing with us year after year thanks to our low premiums and no-hassle service.


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